Anger and Fear


Jon Katz writes about Giving Unpleasant People the Benefit of the Doubt. His message is that we should seek to eliminate anger by eliminating fear. As Paladin said, “Never draw in anger. It slows the hand.”

Jon tells a Zen story as an example of a life lived without fear:

A man is chased in the wilderness by two tigers, only to be forced off a cliff, hanging for life from a vine. One tiger waits above and the other waits below for a human meal. Two field mice gnaw away at the vine. The man sees a wild strawberry growing from the side of a cliff, reaches for it, tastes it, and — with his life hanging in the balance — thinks of how delicious the strawberry tastes.

Jon is talking about mindfulness — “living in the moment,” he calls it, with “the fearlessness of a child filled with wonder.” (See also my post about practicing law with a childlike mind.)

When trying a criminal case, you want to do without fear. You do that by just being, as Jon writes, in the moment. When you’re picking a jury, you’re not afraid of doing it wrong; you’re just doing it. When you’re cross-examining a snitch, you’re not afraid; you’re not even thinking about the consequences.

I’m not certain that you’ve “eliminated” fear (that’s a philosophical discussion for another day), but you’ve at least denied it sway over you.

, ,

0 responses to “Anger and Fear”

  1. I disagree with the story. To me, it seems like the guy should being thinking about life. He should look for crevices in the rocks to grab onto and he should fight, fight, fight !!!. A lawyer who is thinking about how good the strawberries are instead of how to win his case is not being a true warrior and not being the best advocate for his client. The art of advocacy is in some sense the art of war. Zen philosophy tends to cause the advocate to loose his incentive to fight the good battle.
    If you want to read good asian philosophy, take a look at “The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Under chapter one, “Laying Plans,” Sun Tzu says:

    “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him. If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is or choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.”

    Yours in the Defense of Fellow Human Beings,
    Glen R. Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

  2. Glen,

    I’ve read Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu is great for strategy, but if you’re in trial and you’re still thinking about how to win, you’ve already lost.

    If you fight someone who has no plan, you’ll be thinking, I’ll do such and such! as your severed head bounces down the temple steps!

    Or, as a great Zen master once said, “Do or do not. There is no ‘try.’”

  3. This is a timely post for me, so I really appreciate it. I’m so mad at the way the prosecution treated my client, and by extension me, in a recent case that I’m letting it affect my attitude in general and, by extension, my other clients.

    I am so tired of prosecutors who think that because they’re going after the “bad guys” that they get to disregard the law along the way. It may be a bold statement but I’ve often thought that the danger my clients present is less that what some officers and at least a few prosecutors present.

    It’s not that these people are killers. They are, however, dangerous because we monitor them so little, despite their immense power, and, as a society, think of them in such a favorable light that their power becomes more dangerous than the criminal’s as we watch the criminals so carefully but typically fail to monitor the harm that comes from a prosecutor or an officer who will do much harm because he believes that the ends justify the means. “Testilying” and “The Devil often appears in drag” are two phrases that come to mind, and Nifong wasn’t, as he was portrayed in the papers, a rare rogue prosecutor but a guy who pushed the unwritten rules a little farther than most.

    But, although this situation is frustrating, I can’t spend too much energy complaining about it or other people will suffer and the bastards will push their power even further.

  4. Mark is exactly right. When you’re crossing, or summing, you get into the zone. You are not thinkinig at all, just doing. You have no idea what’s going on around you or behind you, just in front of you. You can see your witness, judge and jury, but you’re not stopping to think about any of it. It just happens.

    I’ve turned around after a cross to find that my empty courtroom is full of people. I have no idea how they got there, but I love it when they applaud.

  5. Anonymous:

    You fricking wuss. Your comments are right on but you are too timid to sign your name. John Hancock you are not. Keep your feelings to yourself until you grow a pair.
    I agree with everything you wrote.
    Paul G. Stuckle, Attorney.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.